Study: Cutting out a teaspoon of salt per day can lower blood pressure

Reducing salt intake was as effective as most first-line medications

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Cutting back on sodium intake can be challenging, especially during the holiday season, when so many activities are centered on food. But according to a new study, cutting back moderately on sodium can lead to much lower blood pressure.

According to a study released in JAMA, almost everyone — including those already on blood-pressure-reducing drugs — can lower blood pressure by cutting out a teaspoon of salt daily.

“We found that 70-75 percent of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” said co-principal investigator Norrina Allen, PhD, the Quentin D. Young Professor of Health Policy in the Department of Preventive Medicine in a press release.

Participants in the study consisted of 213 men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who reduced their current salt intake by one teaspoon daily. A week later, 72% of participants saw a decrease in their systolic blood pressure.

“The fact that blood pressure dropped so significantly in just one week and was well tolerated is important and emphasizes the potential public health impact of dietary sodium reduction in the population, given that high blood pressure is such a huge health issue worldwide,” said co-investigator Cora Lewis, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and professor of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high blood pressure accounts for nearly 500,000 deaths in the United States each year. While limiting salt intake can help lower blood pressure, there are other lifestyle changes that can help too, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Limit alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Get at least six hours of sleep per night

“Maintaining an awareness of your numbers can alert you to any changes and help you detect patterns. Tracking your results over time will also reveal if the changes you’ve made are working,” advised the American Heart Association.

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